BROOKE LEMERISE (center, facing) celebrates with teammates Arielle Seavey (left), Robyn Coffield and Amanda Nusbaum (facing, right) after scoring early against Milford on Friday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 27, 2014NORTH CONWAY — For the players on last year's Kennett field hockey team, the feeling must have been pretty eerie.
Last year, the Eagles finished at 11-3 and earned a first round bye in the Division II playoffs, where they faced a team clad in blue and white that took them to overtime tied at one.
This year, the Eagles finished at 11-3 and earned a first round bye in the playoffs. Milford came to North Conway on Friday, Oct. 24, dressed in their blue and white uniforms. And then took the game to overtime tied at one.
However, unlike last year, when St. Thomas defeated the Eagles by a 2-1 score in overtime, this year it was the Eagles that came away with the win, as Robyn Coffield broke in on net and fired a shot past the Milford keeper with 6:57 to go in the 15-minute overtime period, sending the Eagles to the Division II semifinals with the 2-1 win.
"I can't even describe the feeling I have," said first-year head coach Cassandra Johansen. "We're going to the Final Four. I can't even describe it. This group of girls, I didn't want to not see them every day.
"You could tell they wanted it," Johansen continued.
Kennett went to work early, getting a couple of good looks from Arielle Seavey and Amanda Nusbaum. The Eagles also cleared away a few Spartan chances, with keeper Allison Solomon kicking away one bid and Riley Pike and Kate McPherson turning in strong defense in front of the net.
The Eagles were able to capitalize first, as Brooke Lemerise got the hosts on the board. She broke down the right side of the field and pushed the ball into the circle. She fired a shot from just inside the circle and it rifled off the far post and into the cage to give the Eagles the 1-0 lead.
Lemerise had a bid stopped by the defense and Coffield had her shot blocked, while Seavey got the rebound in the circle, but saw the ball cleared out of the net. Milford came back with the game's first corner, but the Eagle defense held tight. Leah Canavari had a trip into the offensive zone, but she was stopped by the Spartan defense. Milford fought back with another chance, but Solomon came out to make a nice save and kept the Spartans off the board. The Eagle keeper also made a couple of nice saves on a Milford corner chance a few moments later. McPherson also turned in solid defense for the Eagles.
However, with 10:50 to go in the half, the Spartans were able to pounce on a rebound off a Solomon save and fired it into the net to tie the game at one.
Milford continued with good pressure, led by a couple of solid corners. One went wide and Nusbaum blocked another, while McPherson and Leah Kelemen turned in good defense for the Eagles.
Kennett came back with another chance in the offensive zone, with Lemerise sending the ball in to Coffield, who sent the ball over to Seavey, but the ball went just wide of the net.
Milford had a couple of corners in the final few minutes of the half, but they weren't able to convert. Paige Hill, Lemerise and Coffield had a good look in the zone in the last minute of play, but the game went to the half with the score knotted at one.
The two teams went back and forth with chances early in the second half, with Seavey and Coffield getting the chances for the Eagles, while Milford also had a couple of bids in their zone, sending one ball through the crease and another wide of the net.
Nusbaum had a shot stopped by the Spartan keeper, while Solomon turned away a shot on another Milford corner. The Spartans also had a good look go wide and another chance just miss out on the net.
Milford continued with another corner, but couldn't get a shot on net and Kennett came back with a couple of corners of their own. One was deflected and McPherson had a shot denied by the defense on the second. McPherson had a chance on another corner, but couldn't find the back of the net Kennett continued to pressure, with McPherson, Nusbaum and Canavari getting good looks.
The Eagles finished the half with a number of great looks, including a couple of corners. Nusbaum had a shot stopped by the keeper and another go wide of the net as the time ticked off on regulation, sending the two teams to the seven-on-seven overtime.
Kelemen turned in a good clear early in the extra frame and Nusbuam had a breakaway denied by a Spartan defender. Kennett had the first corner of the extra frame, but couldn't get a shot on net. Seavey continued the pressure with a shot through the crease and Lemerise had a shot turned away.
Moments after the Eagles cleared the ball from a Spartan bid through the crease at the other end, Coffield broke lose up the field and fired the ball just past the charging keeper and into the cage, igniting a celebration on the Kennett bench as the Eagles earned the trip to the semifinals.
Despite the fact that the Eagles had not seen the Spartans at all this season, Johansen and a few of her players went to the first round playoff game in Milford earlier in the week.
"They're a very good team," Johansen said. "And we knew they were a good second half team."
Johansen was quick to point out that she was excited to continue to work with the girls, even more so since the girls hadn't had much time on the field prior to the Milford game.
"I told them I'm not ready to be done with these girls," Johansen said.
She also pointed to the team's success in overtime, where the Eagles are 4-0 so far.
"I'm very confident in our overtime lineup," she said. "We work better with space."
The Eagles will have to use that speed in the semifinals, as the game was slated to be played on turf in Exeter after deadline Tuesday against Lebanon. The finals are Sunday, Nov. 2, at 5 p.m. at Bedofrd High School.
"We'd like to see Lebanon again, because we lost to them earlier in the season," Johansen said, speaking of a 4-1 loss in the third game of the season.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or email@example.com